Stopping Christchurch becoming another congested Auckland

The Greater Christchurch Partnership’s mode shift plan looks to prevent this sight of the Blenheim Rd overbridge from becoming a regular occurrence. PHOTO: Martin Hunter
The Greater Christchurch Partnership’s mode shift plan looks to prevent this sight of the Blenheim Rd overbridge from becoming a regular occurrence. PHOTO: Martin Hunter
A strategy is underway to prevent Canterbury roads becoming congested like Auckland’s. Louis Day reports.

The Greater Christchurch Partnership’s mode shift plan, a collaboration from councils across the region, states that if current travel patterns continue unchanged and the population grows as expected, cars travelling in and out of the city could increase by 34 per cent by 2048.

With already 87 per cent of household trips across Greater Christchurch being made in single-occupant vehicles, this would likely lead to a significant increase in congestion as well as emissions.

“Action is needed now,” the report says.

“This action must be sustained over the longer term, to avoid Greater Christchurch following in the footsteps of other major centres, where investment in mode shift has only occurred once congestion reached crisis point.”

‘Mode shift” involves moving people away from single-occupancy vehicle use to alternative forms of transport such as public transport, ridesharing and active modes such as walking and cycling.

Mayor Lianne Dalziel agreed action was needed now.

Axel Wilke
Axel Wilke
“I look at Auckland and I look at essentially gridlock and we know that if Auckland is gridlocked the price if paid by the whole country,” she said.

“We have an opportunity to get ahead of the gridlock and actually make good decisions now that will assist us in the future.”

The mode shift plan outlines short term priorities to encourage people to pursue alternative forms of transport. This includes spending $68 million on filling in “critical gaps” in the cycleway network, $10 million on public transport service improvements and up to $3 million on encouraging behaviour change.

NZTA director of regional relationships Jim Harland said the next step was to figure out whether the money to fund the project could come out of existing transport budgets or have to be pursued elsewhere.

This will not be the end of investment in this area, the plan states for the objectives of the plan to be delivered it will require significant ongoing investment.

Greater Christchurch’s proliferating population puts emphasis on the need to alter travel habits to prevent future congestion. Its population is expected to increase from the 428,000 it was in 2013 to 640,000 in 2048.

This combined with private vehicle centred travel habits only adds to the urgency. Single occupancy vehicle use remains high at 87 per cent while public transport use has remained stagnant since the earthquakes
at about 2.5 per cent of peak
hour travel.

This equates to 13.5 million passenger trips a year. Patronage peaked at 17.2 million trips per year in 2010, but levels dropped by more than 40 per cent immediately after the earthquakes.

Meanwhile, the plan outlines that cycling investment has resulted in “significant” increases in cycling numbers. The city council recorded 2234 cycle trips during a morning peak count in March, a decent increase from the 1869 recorded during a morning peak period last year.

This is an increase of nearly 20 per cent, and follows a pattern of yearly increases since the council began building a network of major cycle routes around the city.

The gender breakdown shows that 59 per cent of cyclists counted this year were men and 41 per cent were women. This is a significant increase from the 32 per cent of women cyclists counted in 2016.

The growing number of female cyclists was seen as a positive trend because international experience shows women particularly are unlikely to get on their bikes if they feel unsafe.

Transport specialist Axel Wilke said if Greater Christchurch continued on the route it is currently on it would end up like Auckland.

He said local authorities needed to move away from investing in infrastructure that favoured cars and look towards alternative methods.

“When you talk about mode shift you have to stop building big roads beause it achieves the opposite,” he said.

Wilke said reducing the amount of cars on the road was also imperative in meeting carbon emission goals.

The city council is aiming to of halve Christchurch’s gas emissions by 2030 and reach net zero emissions by 2045.

An investigation into Christchurch’s greenhouse gas emissions found the city emitted far more gas than it offsets.

In 2016/17 the city emitted an estimated 2,485,335 gross tonnes of carbon dioxide which is the equivalent of 6.6 tonnes per person. While that is lower than Auckland (7.9 tonnes per person) and Dunedin (11 tonnes per person), it is more than Wellington (5.7 tonnes).

Transport was also Christchurch’s largest contributor to the city’s emissions at 53 per cent, followed by stationary energy at 22 per cent, agriculture at 10.5 per cent, waste at 9 per cent and industrial processes at 4.7 per cent.

This equates to 13.5 million passenger trips a year. Patronage peaked at 17.2 million trips per year in 2010, but levels dropped by more than 40 per cent immediately after the earthquakes.

Meanwhile, the plan outlines that cycling investment has resulted in “significant” increases in cycling numbers. The city council recorded 2234 cycle trips during a morning peak count in March, a decent increase from the 1869 recorded during a morning peak period last year.

This is an increase of nearly 20 per cent, and follows a pattern of yearly increases since the council began building a network of major cycle routes around the city.

The gender breakdown shows that 59 per cent of cyclists counted this year were men and 41 per cent were women. This is a significant increase from the 32 per cent of women cyclists counted in 2016.

The growing number of
female cyclists was seen as a positive trend because international experience shows women particularly are unlikely to get on their bikes if they feel unsafe.

Transport specialist Axel Wilke said if Greater Christchurch continued on the route it is currently on it would end up like Auckland.

“When you talk about mode shift you have to stop building big roads beause it achieves the opposite,” he said.

Wilke said reducing the amount of cars on the road was also imperative in meeting carbon emission goals.

The city council is aiming to of halve Christchurch’s gas emissions by 2030 and reach net zero emissions by 2045.

An investigation into Christchurch’s greenhouse gas emissions found the city emitted far more gas than it offsets.

In 2016/17 the city emitted an estimated 2,485,335 gross tonnes of carbon dioxide which is the equivalent of 6.6 tonnes per person. While that is lower than Auckland (7.9 tonnes per person) and Dunedin (11 tonnes per person), it is more than Wellington (5.7 tonnes).

Transport was also Christchurch’s largest contributor to emissions at 53 per cent, followed by stationary energy at 22 per cent, agriculture at 10.5 per cent, waste at 9 per cent
and industrial processes at 4.7 per cent.

The Greater Christchurch Partnership is a group comprising the Christchurch City Council, Environment Canterbury, Selwyn District Council, Waimakariri District Council, Ngai Tahu, New Zealand Transport Agency, Canterbury District Health Board, the Greater Christchurch Group and Regenerate Christchurch.

BY THE NUMBERS:

  • Statistics show 87 per cent of household trips across Greater Christchurch are being made in single-occupant vehicles
  • The public transport network currently accounts for 2.5 per cent of peak hour travel demand in Greater Christchurch, which equates for 13.5 million passenger trips per year.
  • Bus patronage peaked at 17.2 million trips per year in 2010, but patronage levels dropped by more than 40 per cent post-earthquake.
  • Cycling counts from seven locations across the central city during the morning peak has increased from 1251 in 2016 to 2234 in 2020.
  • The proportion of women cycling has increased from 31 per cent in 2016 to 41 per cent in 2020.
  • The greater Christchurch population is expected to increase from the 428,000 it was in 2013 to 640,000 in 2048.
  • In 2016/17 Christchurch emitted an estimated 2,485,335 gross tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent.
  • Transportation was the largest contributor to emissions at 53 per cent, followed by stationary energy at 22 per cent, agriculture at 10.5 per cent, waste at 9 per cent, and industrial processes and product use at 4.7 per cent.

 

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